What Do You See?

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Have you ever had a friend remind you of who you are?

I love those rich moments when, as if looking in a mirror, I am re-anchored to my true self. We cherish our dearest friends because they, of all people, hold the looking glass while we listen and resonate to the sounds of Heaven. We hear the truest words with them.

When I told her my concern — that I’ll never be the life of the party — my friend reminded me of our deep friendship that we have cultivated over the years. When I shared my fears, she pushed them away with a “Pfft!” and reminded me of who I am, a wordsmith and an analyst. I see stuff. Without trying, really. Wordless discoveries, brilliant leaves freshly washed with dew beneath my feet. Clumsy attempts, and tiny blushes of color creeping along the edge of the sunrise.

I’ve heard people talk about the Now and the Not Yet.

I think sometimes we see it best when we put our best foot forward, each day working at loving people more than we did yesterday.

The Now. From within my vehicle I snap and snarl at the driver in front of me who takes far too long to make a turn. Knowing with all my heart that this is not who want to be, an impatient curmudgeon, I drive away with my head slumped because I did not choose love.

The Not Yet. It’s about understanding that God enjoys my heartfelt “yesses” toward Him, and celebrates those way more than my lapses into self-centeredness. It’s realizing He’s not torque’d at me, or even mildly irritated. Father God is pretty big on transformation projects. He goes about things in the most unusual ways, and chooses the most unlikely of candidates. A pregnant virgin, a blind man, a prostitute, a leper. Why? I think because when He showed them the mirror of who they were, in His eyes, they would be the least likely to forget what they saw there. They, of all people, would be so grateful that they would cling to the picture He reflected back to them.

When the blind man encountered Jesus, his sight was restored. There was much debate about his healing – sort of like there is today and yet the one thing he said was this, “I was blind, but now I see.”

What do you see?

Through The Eyes of a Child

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Maybe it’s the nature of who I am. Or maybe its this lifetime of never having been married. I’m 44, for heaven’s sake. Did you know that AARP had the audacity to send me an early enrollment form? I nearly spat on it.  I don’t know what compels me toward child-likeness, but I’ll suggest that it’s a dominant gene in my DNA.

And yes, Virginia, your DNA is twisted all to heck.

And did I tell you I might be slightly ADD? I’m only just now getting the picture. It’s that whole distraction thing. Like a freight train. Bird! Plane! Boing! Zoom! But ADD folk make great writers and programmers as long as you give them headphones with classical music. It soothes their fuffled reathers.

Childlike. To be like a child.

So many things in life demand every inch of our attention span, our energy, our focus. We need to drive the ROI. Think outside the box. Strategize. Give! Be present in the moment! Expand. Reduce. Minimize. Be faster, more efficient. It’s exhausting to just write the phrases let alone give them any meaningful consideration.

I possess memories of a nearly idyllic childhood. As kids in the Penhale family, together with our friends, we ran wild across acreages with creeks and barns and trees and open fields. We lived in the land of make believe. We would tumble indoors after playing in the creek all day, soaked to the bone, muddy, covered with horse hair or just outdoor-ness. We thought we were so burdened, so encumbered with cares. In reality we lived like bandits. Our needs were few. We trusted more. We didn’t need elaborate explanations about why.

A little boy asked me once, “Why is red?”

I looked him square in the eye and said, “Because.” He nodded solemnly, and ran off to play.

It’s enough to be like a child.


The Journey with Uncertainty

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What is it about living life, and the way we throw ourselves into the unanswered question so FULLY. We immerse ourselves into the unknown, and wade through until we become the answer. It’s true. If you look at Proverbs 8, Wisdom speaks about how it existed from the beginning of time. When God the Father inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, at the time of Creation, Wisdom existed. Further examination of Scripture will show that this is actually the voice of Jesus talking, and He was with God at the time of Creation. Jesus is Wisdom. To the extent that we continually receive Christ within, we receive Wisdom. And we become enough to face our unknown circumstance.

Christ in you, the Hope of Glory. That is the mystery.

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”   ― Elisabeth Elliot

No matter what our age is, life hands us unanswered questions. The impossible, implausible, unfathomable – you go first – situation.

We are forced to realize our inadequacy and our dependence upon God. The thing is, He loves this! Father God loves when we can come nose-to-nose with our vacant spaces, and look to Him to fill us with Himself. Our needs are what make us love deeply. It makes our lives rich and full when we see the end of ourselves; when we see ourselves in another, when we can tap into a beloved friend’s strength and become woman or man enough to walk this stretch of road.

Mastering the unknowns might give us life experience. And it might make us feel a bit needy.

But most importantly mastering the unknown makes us beautiful.

On Taking the Uncertain Path

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Have you ever been caught up in conversation with a friend, only to stop and listen to what you are really saying? Recently I found myself using a catch-phrase I’d learned when I was quite young, and I was startled to realize it’s implication. The phrase?

“That’s just how it’s done.”


I wonder if you hear the same authority and even arrogance that I did when I listened to myself speak. I cut my teeth on phrases like that. Words and ways of doing things. In this season where I find myself stuck with dreams that fail to gain traction, it occurs to me that I’m guided like the rails of a train track by phrases just like this, “It’s just not done.” “You need to make wise decisions so that God will bless your life.” “You need to wait on God.” Yada, yada. Christian rhetoric and societal rules for playing it safe and getting it right.

What if? What if those phrases actually represented a deep root of pride? What if they implied that I want to be found as someone who made all the right choices? What if they implied that I cared very deeply about what others think instead of caring most about what God thinks? What if God were waiting for me to just take a step instead of trying to always go about things the right way? I’ve never thought of myself as a perfectionist because precious little in my life implies perfect achievement and thus it’s silliness to even go down that path. Yet those who are close to me will attest that I am wired to do it the.right.way. And yet. Isn’t it the same thing? I’m the last to figure this out, by the way.

It strikes me that we hold this pose of doing things right and then we hold God hostage because He should bless us now. “I’ve done it the right way. I’ve waited (or not). I’ve spent frugally (or not). I’ve given generously (or not). And now You should get in line, God, with my plan for my life.” We pin stuff on God like He’s the donkey needing a tail.

copyright (c) Samantha Penhale
The Uncertain Path

I’ve known that the Kingdom of God is upside down, that faith doesn’t make sense, and that logic totally interferes with faith. Noted. But if I’m so committed to playing it safe and doing things just so, when do I break away from self-righteous judgment and begin walking by faith? Does it mean that I should cut bait and run? Does it mean that I should plow into a relationship with the wrong man because now I’m walking by faith and God will catch me? Does it mean that I should walk away from my obligations and commitments?

What I said earlier is profoundly true: The rules that we unconsciously live by are like train tracks. Those rails keep us so tightly wound that we won’t even watch for God to intervene supernaturally because we are so hard-wired to have things go the way we think they should go. And God? He’s keen on doing things in such a way that we’ll know it could only be Him. He wants to blow our circuits with His goodness and His creativity.

My heart is quiet as I realize the deep pride that is rooted in my words, and the authority with which I’ve spoken them. No wonder He’s waiting for me.

A heart-change would be good right about now. After that? I think I’m going to live a little.

Juxtaposition: Science versus Art

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A few years back I was working at a large corporation and, for those of you who care to guess, the company had the largest payroll in the world, outside of General Motors. We were a tightly knit software development team; some were from Canada, another from Rochester, and I was from Detroit. Colleagues and friends prior to the project, we had all been shuttled in to do a pretty sizable re-engineering project. We had been working with some vendors to put in a high availability system with RAID 5, I think. I’ll omit the actual date to preserve my youth, but at the time the combination was complex bordering on impossible. I’ll never forget a conversation with the Sun and Oracle guys who were on site. We had been working through the configuration of the new system for several days when one of the boys chimed in and said, “You know, this isn’t science anymore, it’s art.”

Well, I’m no genius but I often get the opportunity to work with folks who are. And the jist of that comment was this: There is a funky, invisible line where science — with all of its binary zeros and ones: 01010011100 ceases to be strictly science and it flows into something that is quite exotic and beautiful. Remember how beauty is in the eye of the beholder? When disparate pieces of technology ~ code, configuration, hardware, some fiber, a few firewall settings ~ can be thrown together and a system somewhere down the line begins to chug, chug, chug! Sweetheart, there ain’t nothin’ more purty than that. Smile.

There are many concepts in my world, which pose a juxtaposition:

– work versus rest

– hope versus presumption

– opportunity versus impossibility

– spiritual versus religious

How about you?